That's where you come in: Be sure to talk to your child often about what your expectations are, whether they concern sex or drinking or relationships.And ask your teen to think about what she would do if she weren't in a group, says Sabrina Weill, author of The Real Truth About Teens and Sex.
"I have an 11-year-old middle schooler who came home saying that a boy wanted her to have oral sex with him in the parking lot," says Tonja Krautter, a psychologist in Los Gatos, California, who works with adolescents.And a reminder: Keep your computer in an open area, like an office or the kitchen, where it can be monitored by anyone coming in and out. Then the mother heard that the girl wanted to have sex with her son. "I told him I'd like to see him wait until he was at least 18," she says. And girls need to be taught how to be respectful of a boy's feelings.One woman with three sons was astonished last summer when a girl took a liking to her 15-year-old and got aggressive. Teen pregnancy numbers are down, and so is the number of kids who are having intercourse."I said to my daughter, ‘Tell him he needs to come in.Your parents want to meet him.'" And to make sure their kids end up where they say they're going to be, some parents insist their kids call home by landline to confirm their whereabouts using caller ID."Kids almost seem to be running the bases backward," says Marisa Nightingale, of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, referring to the new sexuality.
How do you help your child navigate this complicated world? The groups themselves aren't necessarily a problem-they give teens the opportunity to develop friendships with lots of people, and they take away the strangeness that kids might feel when they're alone on a date. If a lot of kids are doing something questionable, the few who feel it's wrong may have trouble speaking up.
Researchers at the RAND Corporation have found that teens are more likely to have sex when there is less after-school supervision.
So if your daughter is home when you're not, show up unexpectedly on occasion or ask a friendly neighbor to check up on her.
"A lot of kids have this idea that it's no big deal." Kids who think this may be missing crucial messages about sexually transmitted diseases and self-esteem.
Talk to your kids about the seriousness of any sexual contact.
D., interim chairman for Goryeb Children's Hospital at Morristown Memorial, which supports the site.